The heart and wellspring of all evangelical theology is the cross of the Christ. It is in the light of the cross that we truly understand God and truly understand ourselves.
It demonstrates God’s deep and determined love and it demonstrates God’s deep and determined love for sinners (Rom 5:8). I cannot avoid the reality and seriousness of my sin when I attend to the awful glory of what happened outside the walls of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. I cannot avoid the determined and loving purpose of God when I consider who it was who died there. The innocent Christ of God, the Word made flesh, the glorious Son who took to himself in the fullest way possible the form of a servant, was butchered as an insurrectionist by those who denied the Father who sent him. Since God was certainly not powerless to prevent it, nor does he take some kind of perverse pleasure in such acts of gross injustice and cruelty, especially when directed towards his Son, we are forced to ask what made it necessary. What was so serious that such a grim remedy was needed? What turns this divine and human tragedy into an act of love? (more…)
Muriel Porter has been attacking Sydney Anglicans for years. In synods, committees, and in print, she has vociferously opposed the position of the Diocese of Sydney on a whole range of issues. Never very far from the surface, though, is her anger at the diocese’s attitude towards female priests and bishops. (more…)
This is the original, longer version of the edited article that appeared in print.
1. Dealing with a theological legacy
There are three common mistakes when dealing with the legacy of previous generations, whether it is in the area of theology or any other endeavour. The first is uncritical acceptance, where all that was said or done by the great ones who have gone before us is treated as so true and perfect that none of it can be questioned. Some confessional theology can be like that. I remember listening to a series of addresses on baptism in which the constant refrain was “the Reformed faith teaches…” Now I’m happy to identify myself as standing within the Reformed tradition of theology, but after about the fifth address (there were twelve!) you couldn’t help but wonder whether this system was so set in stone that it would be impossible to question it on the basis of the Bible. I had the impression that to do so would be considered a betrayal of Calvin, or Turretin, or Hodge or Warfield and what they have bequeathed to us. And yet each one of those men would have rushed to protest that their own teaching needed to be tested by the one true standard of doctrine, the teaching of the Scriptures. Now if you think that is just typical of the conservative edge of the Reformed tradition, I’ve heard people do similar things with the theology of Karl Barth. Barth’s theology sometimes seems to be made of Teflon—no criticism is allowed to stick. But Barth himself famously spoke of how the angels laughed at those who spend more time thinking about what Barth said than about what God has said. That’s the first mistake to make when considering the legacy of the great ones who have gone before us. (more…)
Dealing with our history, and charting a course that avoids blanket repudiation and blind acceptance, requires careful thought. Mark Thompson shares with us the legacy for today of Donald Robinson and Broughton Knox with regard to the church. (more…)
Who selected the books in the Bible? Was it all just a power play between leaders? Mark Thompson surveys the history of our biblical canon, and the central role of Jesus in its formation. (more…)
In the 1950s and 1960s, John Stott, amongst others, raised the bar in evangelical preaching. Stott, in his preaching and in his commentaries, showed three generations of preachers how to expound a biblical text. He unfolded the text, showed what was there, connected it with life, and did it all with passion and a clear, memorable structure. Those who heard Stott and the very best of those who preached like him, knew that they had been addressed by God. They knew why this part of the Bible mattered, why God wanted us to have it, and the difference it makes to life as a disciple of Christ. Whether they were being challenged or comforted, they were gripped by the teaching of Scripture and excited about studying the Bible. This style of preaching nourished faith, revitalized churches and taught people how to read the Bible for themselves.
Just the other day, I heard the story of a massive donation of Shakespeare manuscripts and later versions to the Globe Theatre in London. Was this bit of news interesting? It was okay. Was it life-shattering? Not really. Was it a challenge to my Christian living? Not at all.
I was struck the other week when a friend spoke to me about the hard time he was having drumming up interest in a sermon series on God. It seems it is so much easier to grab people’s interest if the sermons are recognizably about us in some way or other. This is, of course, simply another form of the age-old concern about relevance. In a consumer-oriented age, those who listen to sermons want to know the cash value up front. (more…)
I was struck the other week when a friend spoke to me about the hard time he was having drumming up interest in a sermon series on God. It seems it is so much easier to grab people’s interest if the sermons are recognizably about us in some way or other. This is, of course, simply another form of the age-old concern about relevance. In a consumer-oriented age, those who listen to sermons want to know the cash value up front.
Of all the ancient virtues, this one is not only out of step with contemporary culture but positively despised by it. At the beginning of the 21st century, many have accepted the idea that we are defined by sex—and I mean the activity, not simply our gender. Any attempt to introduce limits to sexual expression is then seen as an assault upon who I am, a violation of my fundamental human rights. Whatever else human beings are, they are sexual at the core. No wonder, then, that the decision to abstain from sexual activity—for whatever reason—is regarded as, well let’s face it, unnatural.
When Christians disagree, often it is helpful to sort the important from the unimportant, the essential from the indifferent. But what criteria should we use to do this? Mark Thompson investigates.
Note to Briefing readers: If you have already read this article in the paper edition of Briefing #313, the ‘web extra’ component is the section under the heading ‘Looking forward’, which was cut from the printed version for space reasons. You might like to skip forward to this section.
As a preacher, I am passionately concerned to ensure that I am faithfully proclaiming the word of God. Equally important is the question of whether I am effectively proclaiming the word of God. It will be of little or no lasting benefit to those who hear if I parade my cleverness—my wit or charm, my ability with funny or emotive stories—and not bring people into contact with the word that God has spoken. It likewise will be next to useless if I proclaim the truth in a way that obscures its meaning or makes it difficult for people to hear and understand.
We evangelicals ought to face fairly and squarely the uncomfortable truth that we are not good at disagreeing with one another.
What do the Scriptures say? Is it appropriate for a woman to preach to a mixed congregation? In answering these questions, the long debate over woman’s ordination has not helped.